Mt. Lebanon boys soccer leading section, proving doubters wrong

Monday, October 7, 2019 | 8:10 PM

Mt. Lebanon’s boys soccer team has been nearly unstoppable this season.

After a 0-1-1 start, Mt. Lebanon has reeled off 12 consecutive victories to move up the ranks of Class AAAA teams.

The Blue Devils (12-0-1) are ranked fourth-best in AAAA in the latest Trib HSSN weekly rankings, behind Plum, Norwin and Seneca Valley.

“Coming into the season, I felt our players gained confidence and experience from the prior two years,” coach Bill Perz said. “We played in a lot of close matches that didn’t go our way, which helped our guys understand that the smallest details can tilt the outcome of the game.

“The guys are meeting the expectations we set as a team. Our expectations have not changed. Our goal is to compete every time we step on the field.”

The Mt. Lebo boys hold a slight lead atop the Section 2 standings with a perfect 10-0 record, in front of fifth-ranked Canon-McMillan (11-2-1, 8-1-1) and Upper St. Clair (9-2-2, 6-2-2).

“Our expectations were that we would be competitive in the section and get farther in playoffs than we did last year,” said Giuseppe Croce, a senior midfielder and the team’s leading scorer. “The Twitter accounts once again doubted us, but that has never seemed to get in our way.

“Our goal is to win the rest of our games and win a title. Each game will be a challenge, but that is expected at this point in the year.”

Behind junior goalkeeper Steven Vines and a stout defensive corps, Mt. Lebanon owns five shutouts and limited four other opponents to one goal, racking up a 43-14 scoring advantage.

Perz said one of the team’s strengths is its depth.

“We have a bunch of guys who compete against each other every day in training,” Perz said. “This has helped improve our environment and overall readiness when game time comes around.

“We play a schedule that doesn’t allow you to rest on your achievements for very long. We have to continue focusing on the next match.”

Along with Vines and Croce, the Blue Devils’ starting lineup consists of seniors Carter Gannon, Mark Joseph, Bryce Andra and junior Nick Estabrook on defense, seniors Liam Donald and Kieran McDonough, sophomore Zac D’Alesandro and junior Zach Nellas at midfield, and senior Danny Simboro at striker.

“Steven Vines has come up big for us in crucial moments,” Perz said. ”Mark Joseph and Nick Estabrook have been a great center back pairing, and Zach Nellas has been a driving force in our midfield.”

Leading reserves include seniors John Delvaux (D) and Joseph Coutinho (MF), plus juniors Eric Bosch (MF), Joey Costello (F) and Andy Cort (D).

“John Delvaux had game-winning OT goals against USC and West Allegheny,” Perz said.

Also, Joseph Harrington, a senior goalkeeper, is 2-0 in relief appearances.

Croce (14 goals), Simboro and Nellas lead the Blue Devils in goal scoring.

“Obviously, I think we’ve had a strong start to our season and section play, but at this point, we know our abilities and take each game as a new battle,” Croce said. “We have strong players in each position and depth on the bench.

“I love the environment. Everyone gets along because we know our goals. There are still a lot of games between now and (possible) titles, but I’m excited to see what the rest of the season holds.”

Perz is in his fourth year as Mt. Lebanon’s coach. He was an assistant on Ron Wilcher’s staff the six prior seasons.

“I am fortunate to have a great coaching staff,” Perz said. ”Brad Frye, Kevin Dougherty, Aaron Panczyk, Mike Gullo and Julian Auer have all played a part in the past successes that our program has achieved. They have all helped recreate that culture.

“Also, having Ron Wilcher — ‘the architect’ — around to lend his thoughts and experiences is invaluable. I have always believed our program is a huge family, and our boys have been taking that bond on the field with them every night.”

Mt. Lebanon has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for three straight years. The Blue Devils end section play Tuesday at Canon McMillan and Thursday at home against Upper St. Clair.

The Blue Devils’ last winning season before 2019 occurred in 2013 when they finished 11-7-2. Their last section championship was attained in 2010.


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